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COA finds officer had no reason to make woman sit in squad car after stop

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 A police officer was not justified in requesting that the woman he pulled over for an expired driver’s license sit in his squad car while he decided how to proceed in the matter, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Bartholomew County Sgt. Kriston Weisner pulled over Stephanie Lucas’ car after running her license plate number and finding out her driver’s license was expired. She pulled into a gas station and was smoking a cigarette when the sergeant approached her car. A couple of minutes after he stopped her, Weisner requested Lucas come to his patrol car to “review the information and decide what we are going to do.” She complied and as they spoke about her expired license, he smelled alcohol on her breath. Lucas complied to field tests and a certified chemical breath test, which showed a BAC of 0.10.

She was charged with various drunken driving charges and a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, and she filed a motion to suppress. She claimed she was subjected to an investigatory detention that exceeded its permissible scope. The trial court denied her motion.

Judge Patricia Riley pointed out that Weisner could not identify one reason related to the initial purpose of the stop for needing Lucas to sit in his patrol vehicle. He even admitted that he could have accomplished his objective at the side of her vehicle. He testified he did not see Lucas speed, improperly change lanes or perform any other erratic driving. He did not smell any alcohol on her until she sat in his car and she didn’t show signs of intoxication.
 
“While there is no bright-line test for evaluating whether an investigatory stop satisfies the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment, an investigative stop must be accomplished using the least intrusive means readily available absent some particular circumstance justifying an additional intrusion,” Riley wrote for the majority that included Judge Margret Robb. “Here, the traffic stop was more intrusive than authorized for a permissible investigatory stop because Sergeant Weisner did not articulate a legitimate reason as to why he could not complete his investigation standing alongside Lucas’ vehicle. As a result, suppressing the evidence obtained after Sergeant Weisner unreasonably moved Lucas to his squad car is necessary as a means of deterring police officers from impinging the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment in the future.

Judge Cale Bradford concurred in result in a separate opinion. He did not believe the sergeant’s request that Lucas sit in his patrol car violated her Fourth Amendment rights, but under the circumstances of this case, Lucas was subjected to an illegal custodian interrogation without first being advised of her rights.

The case is Stephanie Lucas v. State of Indiana, 03A01-1309-CR-389.
 

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  • A Boy Named Kriston
    Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?
  • man bites dog
    reading an appeal these days which actually upholds the fourth amendment is kind of a man bites dog types story.... GOOD DECISION!

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

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  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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